BDNF is behind Brain Rule Number 1: Exercise boost Brain Power

Exercise Boost Brain Power

Here i summarize the article titled “The Effects of Exercise of the Brain” by MK McGovern

Exercise has a number of positive effects on the brain including:

1. Treating depression
2. Improving memory
3. Alleviation of mental and physical pain
4. Neurogenesis

Exercise exerts is effects through the mechanisms of neurogenesis, mood enhancement and endorphin release.

Neurogenesis
New neurons are created in the hippocampus, the center of learning and memory.
The mechanism is understood to be related to an influx of calcium which activates transcription factors that express the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).
BDNF acts to generate new neurons, protects existing neurons, promote synaptic plasticity (efficiency of signal transmission), and repair old neurons. Repair of neurons acts by regenerating axons via neurotrophin mechanisms and reinforcing neural connections by increasing the number of dendrite connections.
More dendritic connections give a denser network which is better able to process and store information.

Happiness and depression
It is possible to exercise yourself to happiness. Depression occurs as a result of low levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. Exercise increases the concentration of both via the sympathetic nervous system.
BDNF and serotonin have a reciprocal relationship. BDNF increases serotonin production and serotonergic signaling simulates BDNF expression.
ie. Exercise boosts BDNF levels directly, and BDNF in turn boosts serotonin. This is why exercise acts as a mood enhancer.
Studies on rats show that use of exercise and antidepressants together greatly enhances reduction of depressive behavior, and this is better than the use of anti-depressants alone. Neurogenesis plays a role in treating depression as the hippocampus of depressed women can be up to 15% smaller than normal.

Endorphins
Released by the Pituitary gland in response to stress and pain, they bind to opioid receptors in neurons. This blocks NT release and interferes with the transmission of pain signals. Within 30 minutes of exercise endorphins result in a euphoric effect which might be the result of pain signal blockage allowing dopamine and serotonin to take their effect. This means that BDNF is also suspect in the euphoric effect brought about by endorphins as a result of the BDNF-serotonin loop. Release of endorphins is addictive. More exercise is needed to produce the same euphoric effect. Morphine and Heroin act on the same recep

It’s interesting to note that exercise is so easy to give up given that it is both beneficial and has a built in mechanism for addiction (endorphin receptors). Possibly this is due to the fact that an initial level of pain has to be overcome before endorphins take their effect.

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